Best Harry Potter movies: ranking the magical fantasy movies from worst to best

How to watch the Harry Potter movies in order - Deathly Hallows Part 2
Daniel Radcliffe isn't expected to star in a Harry Potter TV show (Image credit: Murray Close/ Warner Bros)

Over a decade since when the series wrapped up, the Harry Potter franchise remains a hugely popular movie series, with eight fantastic fantasy films that hold a place in many people's hearts.

Based on the book series, Harry Potter followed the titular child wizard, as well as friends like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, as they progressed through the education system at the magical Hogwarts School for Witches and Wizards, facing many foes and friends along the way.

The movies have sparked a spin-off series in the form of Fantastic Beasts, and is also getting a reboot in the form of an upcoming HBO show. And with all eight movies readily available to stream (on Netflix in the UK and HBO Max in the US) it's easy to get your fill of wizarding magic.

While every Harry Potter fan is going to have their favorite movie (as well as a least favorite), at What to Watch we've taken on the tricky task of ranking each of them from worst to best. Here's the order we've come up with, so you can decide if you agree:

** WARNING - spoilers ahead! If for some reason you haven't seen all eight of the Harry Potter movies, or it has been so long since you read the books that you have forgotten how the franchise ends — you might want to think twice before reading on! **

8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Order of the Phoenix

(Image credit: Murray Close/ Warner Bros)

While choosing the weakest Harry Potter film wasn't easy, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix stands out from the crowd, and not just because of the fact this is the film where Sirius Black dies (sob). This film might be packed to the rafters with action, but it can often get viewers in a muggle... sorry, muddle, with all the different storyline strands going on. 

But, while this might not be the most compelling of the films, there are plenty of redeeming factors, not only is this the film where Bellatrix Lestrange makes her grand entrance (only to kill off our beloved Sirius), but Harry also creates Dumbledore's Army, teaching his friends how to fight against the Dark Arts, while the amazing Voldermort and Dumbledore duel at the Ministry of Magic leaves us wanting more. And, of course, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix also sees the introduction of Dolores Umbridge, played to perfection by Imelda Staunton.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 (2010)

How to watch the Harry Potter movies in order - Deathly Hallows Part 1

(Image credit: Murray Close/ Warner Bros)

By the time the films get to the Deathly Hallows double bill, things are really picking up, action-wise. However, the first installment of J.K Rowling's final book seems to simply be setting the scene for the final showdown, and let's face it, there is a lot of setting up to be done. 

The first half of the movie is fairly pacey and it is nice to see Ron, Hermione, and Harry in the muggle world for a change, but soon they are flitting from one location to another trying to track down the Horcruxes, and we're still not ready to talk about THAT beach scene with Dobby. 

While it's hard to judge a film as a standalone movie when it is only one half of a book is hard, it had to be said that Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint are outstanding in this film, standing out from the crowd as they make a move away from the rest of the cast and carry the film along. 

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Philosopher's Stone in UK) (2001)

best Harry Potter movies - Sorcerer's Stone

(Image credit: Murray Close/ Warner Bros)

The first Harry Potter film brought J.K Rowling's magical world of witchcraft and wizardry to life, meaning it will always have a special place in the hearts of fans around the world. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint bust onto our screens, perfectly cast as Harry, Hermione, and Ron, marking the start of one of the most successful movie franchises in cinema history. 

However, while the nostalgia of the first film — not to mention THAT iconic chess set scene — will always be special, it is only when you compare this first installment to the later films that you realize the best is yet to come. 

5. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets

(Image credit: Murray Close / Warner Bros)

While it might not have ranked that high on our list, mainly because it is just a bit too long, there is plenty going for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets — especially the genius casting of Kenneth Branagh as the brilliantly vain Gilderoy Lockhart. 

We discover in the second Harry Potter installment that Harry can speak parseltongue, and of course, it is the film where we are introduced to Dobby, everyone's favorite house elf. In this film we also learn more about Moaning Myrtle, Tom Riddle, and of course the Weasley's flying car... it just had a few too many spiders in it for our liking. Shudder. 

4. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) 

best Harry Potter movies - Half-Blood Prince

(Image credit: Murray Close/ Warner Bros)

The sixth movie in the series sees a brilliant balance of light-hearted comedy as Ron and Harry start to discover the opposite sex with hilarious consequences, and drama as we discover more about Snape's backstory. Tom Felton is outstanding as Malfoy as his role within the Death Eaters steps up a gear, while actor Jim Broadbent delivers a goofy Professor Slughorn to perfection. 

This is also the film where Harry shares his first kiss with Ginny, and Dumbledore meets an untimely end after Snape's shocking "betrayal". The only thing missing is Voldermort's back story, which stands out as some of the more important parts of J.K Rowling's sixth book which has been oddly left out of the film.

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

How to watch the Harry Potter movies in order - Goblet of Fire

(Image credit: Murray Close/ Warner Bros)

The fourth installment of the Harry Potter franchise ramps everything up a gear once again, this time bringing us the Triwizard Tournament, the Yule Ball, and of course, Robert Pattinson as (the ill-fated) Cedric Diggory. 

This movie sees Harry in yet another impossible predicament when he is faced with a life-threatening hurdle that he has no choice but to embrace as he is selected to battle it out for the Triwizard Cup, but this time the scenes come with brilliant cinematography and the whole film feels like a more grown-up big brother to its predecessors. 

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 (2011)

Deathly Hallows Part 2

(Image credit: Murray Close/ Warner Bros)

It's the climax of all the films, bringing together the story in one final battle for Hogwarts, and while we didn't want the series to end, this has got to be the most fitting finish we could have hoped for. All the loose ends of the story are neatly tied up with a bow, and the moment fans have been waiting for finally arrives when Harry finishes off Voldermort in epic style. 

Fans are also treated to a glimpse into the future as we see Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermionie back on Platform 9 and three quarters waving off their own children as they board the Hogwarts Express... we challenge any die-hard Potter fan to watch the end of this film without a tear in their eye. 

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) 

best Harry Potter movies - Prisoner of Azkaban

(Image credit: Murray Close/ Warner Bros)

And the winner is... Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In our opinion by far the best film of the series. Not only does the third installment of the franchise bring us Sirius Black, but Harry also blows up Aunt Marge, and then there is, of course, the amazing Knight Bus scene which we could just watch over and over, even if Dre Head can't count backward properly. 

Gary Oldman and David Thewlis are bewitching as Lupin and Sirius, and Harry finally gets to meet someone as close to family as he is ever going to get. From start to finish the plot is strong and logical, leading to the film becoming a firm fan favorite over the years. 

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.